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Barlow Mix Columbine Seeds (Aquilegia vulgaris)

40 Seeds

Regular price $7.65

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40 Seeds

Grow a colorful mix of this standout "Barlow" columbine series from seed this season. Unlike most columbines, the "Barlow" series (Aquilegia vulgaris var. Stellata) lacks the signature "spur" behind its flower heads, but makes up for it with multiple layers of narrow, spiky petals... each of which have cupped sides resembling those of a canoe. Tightly-bundled stamens bear bright yellow anthers and protrude to or beyond the forward-pointing, most central petals. Barlow cultivars are the first columbine hybrids to bear multi-petaled, spurless flowers. 

Barlow columbines are clumping, with multiple graceful, leafy stems. The leaves themselves have deep, rounded scallops and the upper stems branch to support multiple nodding blooms 3/4" to 1" wide. 

What's more interesting than this columbine collection's rich green foliage and dramatic flowers? Its series namesake, for starters. Charles Darwin's remarkable granddaughter Lady Emma Nora Barlow (1885 –1989) was both a botanist and geneticist at Cambridge. She also curated and made notes on her grandfather's work, particularly his writings on plants. 

Columbines are most often used as an edging, rock garden species, or border plant. We recommend planting the Aquilegia vulgaris var. Stellata mix among more typical columbines, or pairing them with other early-season bloomers such as phlox, alyssum, and ornamental allium species. 

Our "Barlow" columbine mixture may vary according to available seeds, but you can expect the following colors:

  • "Aline Fairweather": Delicate pink
  • "Black": Very dark burgundy
  • "Blue": Lilac
  • "Bordeaux": As the name implies, a dark wine color
  • "Miss M.I. Huish": Violet
  • "Nora Barlow": The flagship Barlow columbine is a rich pink with white tipped (toward front) and green tipped rear petals

Cultivars that aren't typically included in this mixture:

  • "Christa": Purple with white edges and tips
  • "White": White; not usually included in this mixture

If you want more plants that attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, but aren't nibbled by deer and rabbits, put columbines on your seed-shopping list. In spite of their general hardiness, Aquilegias can be susceptible to leaf miners, spider mites, aphids, caterpillars, and powdery mildew. 

Long-stemmed "Barlow" columbines are excellent cut flowers and can last for up to two weeks in fresh floral arrangements. Immerse the stems in room temperature water as soon as you cut them; once in your kitchen, cut them again under running water before placing them in your desired containers. They hold up remarkably well as dried flowers. 

Sowing the Seeds

While the seeds are slow to germinate, columbines are otherwise easy for the novice gardener to grow. We recommend a cold-stratification period of 4-6 weeks prior to Spring seeding, or frost seeding in late fall. For an in-depth look at growing columbines, visit our blog post on the topic

  • Soil preparation: Remove all clumps and debris from the seedbeds
  • Sowing outside: Plant as soon as possible after your last spring frost
  • Sowing indoors (Recommended): Start columbines in peat pots in a high-quality seedling mix. Columbines prefer alkaline soil, so while peat pots are preferable, peat in the soil must be balanced with lime 
  • Seed depth: No more than 1/16" deep. Columbine seeds require sunlight to germinate. Scatter on top of or gently press into soil surface

Slow-germinating seeds should be planted two or three seeds to a space, since the lapse of time can allow rot to set in. Trim (don't pull) the least vigorous sprouts from each planting location. Always start with the freshest, highest-quality Aquilegia vulgaris var. Stellata seeds from Seed Needs!

Growing Conditions

"Barlow" columbines tolerate most well-drained soils but rich, fertile beds produce the best plants. We recommend providing them with consistent moisture in soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. 

Columbines are sometimes marketed as a shade plant, and they look great planted along the southernmost boundaries of a shady patch. Still, we recommend full sun unless you're in areas with exceptionally hot afternoons. 

Aquilegia vulgaris var. Stellata columbines are classified as perennials in USDA Growing Zones 3-9. 

Germination & Growth

Like most other plants in the Aquilegia genus, "Barlow" columbines have clumping bases and tall stems with alternate leaves. Stems and flowers can double in the plant's second and again in its third year. These are short-lived perennials that tend to "go downhill" after their third season, but through self-sowing older plants can replace themselves. 

  • Days to germination: Somewhat slow; 14 to 28 days 
  • Bloom period: Late spring through mid-summer; deadheading usually prolongs blooming
  • Plant height: 12 to 24 inches tall
  • Plant width: 12 to 18 inch spread
  • Recommended spacing: Seed, thin, or transplant at 18" intervals

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